via cell phone, eliminating the need to carry paper directions. Echeruo has always intended to keep the service free of charge; the company’s profits come from advertising. Advertisers such as The New York Times and Donna Karan helped propel the business toward the $3 million mark in 2006.
This year, Echeruo is considering adding Baltimore and Atlanta, as well as transit systems in New Jersey and Long Island, New York. Internationally, London and Paris are expected by 2008.
Rising Star Award NOMINEES
This award recognizes individuals, aged 21—35, whose outstanding skills, professionalism, and perseverance have established them as future business leaders.
TYPE OF BUSINESS Technology
CEO Dennis Gentles
LOCATION Las Vegas
Dennis Gentles broke the mold. In an era where MP3 has almost become synonymous with iPod, the Klegg Mini has managed to hold
its own. The compact device is only 1.8″ by 1.6″ and can hold 128, 256, or 512 megabytes of storage, depending on the model. Other features include a color screen and the capability to store digital photo albums.
Gentles, who previously ran a computer consulting firm, used $70,000 to finance Klegg Electronics. Founded in 2003, the company also sells televisions, speakers, and remote control devices. Products are available at audio retailers throughout the country as well as through Klegg’s Website. Prices for the Mini range from $49.99 to $99.99, comparable to other MP3 players on the market. In 2006, revenues reached $780,000.
Recognizing that publicity drives sales, Gentles sought a celebrity endorsement. After all, who better to promote an MP3 player than a musician? He partnered with Paula Adbul, who promoted his product on The Tony Danza Show and VH-1. Now 33, Gentles is content to reap the rewards of his success. “We recently introduced a new line called Genesis, which features portable GPS systems, digital camcorders, and digital media players,” he says.
Duly Noted Inc.
TYPE OF BUSINESS Film Production
CEO/PRESIDENT Effie T. Brown
LOCATION Los Angeles
Effie T. Brown is no stranger to adversity. As one of the few African American film producers in an unforgiving industry, the New Jersey native has succeeded in making a name for herself. “I had to make it happen. I couldn’t let being a double minority taint my progress,” says Brown, 35. After graduating from Loyola Marymount University, she utilized the Black Business Bureau and Film Independent, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting independent filmmakers, to get her foot in the door.
Through Film Independent, she participated in Project Involve, a fellowship that helps women and minorities break into the industry. Brown used $50,000 of her savings to finance her business. A mentor helped her secure projects at HBO Films, and it didn’t take long for the company to recognize Brown’s potential. To date, she has produced and line-produced approximately 17 films, many of which were distributed by HBO.
Her breakthrough hit, Real Women Have Curves, was lauded at the Sundance Film Festival in 2002 and paved the way for Ugly Betty star America Ferrara. Rocket Science, which won the prize for best directing at Sundance this year, will help lead the company to